"We did this because of the community: I was like, 'I need to bring these people together.'" From podcasters and sculptors to fanzine editors and tarot readers, we meet the super-fans helping Sleep Token become one of metal's biggest success stories

Sleep Token fans
(Image credit: Future)

Earlier this year, Metal Hammer travelled to Los Angeles to witness Sleep Token's ongoing global conquest reach the US. The mysterious masked collective have inspired a wave of fanaticism like few other metal bands in recent memory, their shows very much becoming the rituals the band have long advertised them as. As part of our look at their incredible year, we tracked down some of Sleep Token's most dedicated, passionate fans and community figureheads to check out their unique memorabilia and talk to them about what sets the band apart from so many others in the modern metal scene.

Metal Hammer line break

Rick Murtagh from London designs his own Sleep Token sculptures, orbs and artwork.

“I’ve been a metalhead since 2001. Chop Suey! [by System Of A Down] is what really got me into crazy metal stuff. My best friend, Rob, got me into Sleep Token in 2019. He was so into the band that I couldn’t really understand it at first. When he sent me Sundowning, I liked it – just liked it, at first. Even during the This Place Will Become Your Tomb era, I was dabbling back and forth. I wasn’t totally into it as much as I am now. Seeing them support Architects at Alexandra Palace [in 2022] was the turning point. It was the whole aesthetic behind them: the performance, the way the fans reacted – I got it! I’ve been a crazy fan ever since.

“I’ve been doing art for most of my life, and sculpting for about seven years. The first Sleep Token sculpture I made was of Vessel, for Rob. It was just a Christmas thing, to say ‘thank you’ for getting me into them. I just got more and more into it, especially with Take Me Back To Eden, with the release of Chokehold, The Summoning and all that. My brain went into all these different directions. I started looking at the symbols, especially from Sundowning, and asking, ‘What would be a good way to represent that?’ I had sphere moulds, where you can pour resin in, and my brain went from there. That was this year and I’ve done loads ever since – it’s been nonstop!

“Rob got me onto the Sleep Token marketplace [on Facebook]. He told me to showcase my art. I think the first one was my sculpture of Euclid, the character [Sleep Token gave every song on Take Me Back To Eden its own dedicated cover art, each featuring a different humanoid figure]. People started messaging, asking how much they sell for. It’s gone from there and it’s been a blur since. I think that was in May.

“The sculpting always starts with whatever my mind is fixating on – for example, a music video. I don’t really know what my process is. With the orb stuff, I pick
a colour theme and then I put the resin into the mould. The stand could be anything, like wires I’ve twisted or wooden pieces or PVC.

“My art is becoming more and more of a trade, but it’s still a hobby right now. I get regular painting commissions, but I also genuinely love doing it. If I can create something new that appeals to everyone, that’s how I get by. I do a lot of nostalgic stuff: I do a lot of sculptures based on the Goosebumps books, the front covers. That blew up, in a weird way, because I didn’t realise there are lots of Goosebumps collectors out there. I hit that niche early on and now I’ve hit something with Sleep Token. Being an artist [full-time] is something I’ve been aiming for a long, long time.

“I’m going to see Sleep Token at Wembley and I feel like all of this is leading to an unmasking. It will be something cinematic, where they start off with The Night Does Not Belong To God and end with Euclid to encapsulate the whole trilogy they’ve created. I don’t know if anyone can predict what’s next, but wherever they go from here will make them more huge.”

Rick with his Sleep Token painting

(Image credit: Rick Murtagh)

Rick's Sleep Token sculpture collection

(Image credit: Future (Kevin Nixon))

Emily Janicki from Missouri has delved into Sleep Token’s occult side with handmade cards

“I found Sleep Token not that long ago. It was on TikTok: someone was doing a reaction video to The Summoning and I completely lost my mind. I had never heard anything like that in my life before, so I joined all the Facebook groups. I saw them in St. Louis in September and I am still feeling that high, which is wild. That never happens for me. They’re the first band in metal that I’ve been a fan of. They’ve totally expanded my horizons as well. I love Bad Omens now, and Spiritbox. I’m definitely going to expand into more heavy metal – but, for now, I’m just hooked on them!

“I wasn’t going to make a full tarot deck. I posted one of the cards into the Vesselposting Facebook group, thinking of maybe getting it for a tattoo. When I shared it, everybody exploded, they loved it! They said I should make a full deck, so I did! I spent three days drawing, barely sleeping until I finished. I was absolutely obsessed with getting it done. I actually offer it for just the printing cost, so people can share the love for tarot and for Sleep Token. That Facebook group completely changed the course of all the art I was doing.

“I started making [tarot decks] a couple of years ago, and it was a super-inclusive, pink version of the tarot. I only got through, like, seven cards, and it was more about people and realism, but I gave up on it because I’m such a perfectionist. My first attempt was kind of a bust, but this one turned out great!

“I’ve been going on a spiritual journey with tarot for about four years, since I’ve been in college. Since I graduated with my degree, I was actually getting my masters degree, but then I had my baby. Then, I went the whole art route. Now, I own my own small business where I sell my art prints and it’s totally taken me in a whole new direction. Eventually, I want to get a storefront in my hometown, if my Etsy store and my art grow that much. Making these fan decks where I just sell them for the printing cost, because I don’t want to profit off the band, is definitely a great way to get my art out there.”

Tarot cards

(Image credit: Emily Janicki)

Tiffany Marie from Colorado has put together an amazingly detailed Sleep Token battle jacket

“I got into Sleep Token at the beginning of the year. I’m a really big fan of Ghost, they’re one of my favourite bands, and I’m in numerous groups on Facebook. Someone posted a picture of Vessel in one of them. That was how I actually found the band, and then I did my own research on them from there. It all kind of spiralled from there, which led to the jacket. I made the jacket back in May, when the new album came out. That was also around the same time that I ended an abusive relationship and broke off the engagement. I’m from New York City originally, I don’t have family here, so my life started spiralling at that point. I turned to music and Sleep Token spoke to me; every single emotion I was having, every single song spoke to me about them. It’s OK to have these emotions of longing, wanting and questioning, because you’re going through this relationship with Vessel, essentially.

“I’ve been making battle jackets for more than five years now, more so in the wrestling community. I grew up with the aesthetics of battle jackets, not just in metal but in wrestling; Shawn Michaels had some really cool, elaborate ones. There’s a lot of indie wrestling here in Colorado, and there are wrestlers out there running around wearing my work. I’ve also made a couple of Ghost ones, just because I saw them when they were here in Colorado.

“I like to experiment. I’m not a ‘put a patch on a jacket and call it a day’ type of person. I like to pick a topic and stay with it. That’s just how my mind works. I’m a funeral director by trade, so I’m around death 24/7, and making my battle jackets is something where my mind goes into creative mode. I’m thinking of my designs, sewing, making my own patches – anything where I can step away from work and be in my own creative bubble.

“I use shirts as patches, buying as much merch from the band as possible. I don’t want to make money off the band, so I don’t sell them. I’ve been asked many times. I’ve also gotten some shit from gatekeepers, but my favourite is when one of them told me, ‘Sleep Token suck, but your jacket is pretty cool.’ Ha ha ha!”

A battle jacket with Sleep Token designs on

(Image credit: Tiffany Marie)

Mysterious US duo ‘Aries’ and ‘Conduit’ are behind lavish Sleep Token fanzine Worship

Aries: “Conduit and I are housemates, so we discovered Sleep Token at the same time. It was in 2021 and, immediately, we both had the same reaction, like, ‘Oh my god!’ You could feel it in every ounce of your body. Sleep Token were the only thing we had playing in the house for about a year straight. That night, we joined the Sleep Token Discord. We fell in love with the community and the idea of a fanzine was first mentioned by our friend from the Discord, who’s from the South. They mentioned it and I was like, ‘I’ve been part of probably nearly two dozen zines at this point – I’d love to do this project with you.’ We started Worship in March.

“We want to finish shipping out our first issue before we focus on a second one, but we have discussed the potential of doing a volume two – we’ve been floating ideas around for a theme. And, of course, we have lofty dreams. Our first big goal was to get our fanzine in the hands of the band, and I was actually able to get our first volume into [bassist] III’s hands at a show. I held it out and he ran over and grabbed it.”

Conduit: “They were touring with In This Moment [in 2022] and they came to our city. After the show, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive six hours to see them in another city. It was addictive at that point! Pretty much all of the zines we’ve worked on have been in the nerd sphere. Mine were related to a videogame franchise, and for Aries it’s been anime, movies, videogames and things like that. We did this one because of the community: the amount of people so devoted and passionate about Sleep Token, from all walks of life. It was so fascinating that I was like, ‘I need to bring all these people together.’

“There’s an endless fountain of creativity [in the Sleep Token fanbase]. I think their anonymity encourages them to be more creative and in tune with themselves. People will always be able to find new ways to relate to the music or find new ways to express their emotions regarding the music.”

Worship fanzine

(Image credit: Aries and Conduit)

Arkansas co-hosts Dawson Reddin and Justin Jones are responsible for dedicated podcast Sleep Talkin

Dawson: “Discovering Sleep Token for me was a bit different than most, I’d say. My co-host Justin had been a fan for several years and tried to put me on to them when Sundowning was released. At the time, I just wasn’t into it. About six months after Sundowning, I decided to give it a second chance and stumbled upon Dark Signs. In that moment I was hooked – it was kind of strange to me, but I felt a sense of peace when listening to it.

“The idea of Sleep Talkin honestly came from the awesome community. Justin and I are both admins for the massive Facebook group Sleep Token Vesselposting, which has nearly 20,000 members. I was sitting in my living room one day listening to Sleep Token and scrolling through the Facebook community, and thought it would be super-cool to make a dedicated podcast talking about the boys, news, merch and so on – a place for fans to listen, enjoy and worship together. They exploded overnight, and all of us old fans were in complete shock and excitement. Personally, I would love to see them keep growing, maybe another album, because I’ll never turn that down, and hopefully some music videos. A few other things would be some sick new merch, and a live DVD of their show at Wembley.”

Justin: “I first heard Sleep Token in 2017. I’m big into fighting games and a fellow Killer Instinct player posted Calcutta. ‘I’ve never heard anything like this,’ his caption said. I clicked on it and was completely blown away. Their EPs One and Two were complete magic to me. The dark ambient tones were right up my alley. The tortured and twisted lyrics made me feel something I haven’t in many years; they really make you think. Then there were these crushing breakdowns that came out of nowhere. I was hooked.

“We have so much respect for the band and its members, so we try to be as careful and respectful as possible when it comes to our show. There are many times we could have a guest on that has some connection to the band’s past, and we have to be very careful what we discuss to make sure we are not opening a door to any identities. Sleep Token have blown up faster than I’ve ever witnessed. I hope they continue to grow in 2024.”

Sleep Token podcast hosts

(Image credit: Dawson Reddin and Justin Jones)
Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.

With contributions from